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Song of Solomon 2:14-16 NASB 1995

14 “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret place of the steep pathway, Let me see your form, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, And your form is lovely.”

15Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, While our vineyards are in blossom.”

16 “My beloved is mine, and I am his; He pastures his flock among the lilies.

Song of Solomon 2:14-16 NKJV

14 “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, In the secret places of the cliff, Let me see your face, Let me hear your voice; For your voice is sweet, And your face is lovely.”

15 Catch us the foxes, The little foxes that spoil the vines, For our vines have tender grapes.

The Shulamite
16 My beloved is mine, and I am his. He feeds his flock among the lilies.

13:1-5 The Westminster Leningrad Codex

13 וַיְהִ֥י דְבַר־יְהוָ֖ה אֵלַ֥י לֵאמֹֽר׃

2 בֶּן־אָדָ֕ם הִנָּבֵ֛א אֶל־נְבִיאֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל הַנִּבָּאִ֑ים וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֙ לִנְבִיאֵ֣י מִלִּבָּ֔ם שִׁמְע֖וּ דְּבַר־יְהוָֽה׃

3 כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֔ה ה֖וֹי עַל־הַנְּבִיאִ֣ים הַנְּבָלִ֑ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֹלְכִ֛ים אַחַ֥ר רוּחָ֖ם וּלְבִלְתִּ֥י רָאֽוּ׃

4 כְּשֻׁעָלִ֖ים בָּחֳרָב֑וֹת נְבִיאֶ֥יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל הָיֽוּ׃

5 לֹ֤א עֲלִיתֶם֙ בַּפְּרָצ֔וֹת וַתִּגְדְּר֥וּ גָדֵ֖ר עַל־בֵּ֣ית

Song of Solomon 2:15 is an interesting verse.

On the Bible Hub website, some of the commentaries state the following in regards to Song of Solomon 2:15

Benson Commentary

the foxes — The disturbers of the vineyard, or the church, namely, seducers or false teachers; the little foxes — This he adds for more abundant caution, to teach the church to prevent errors and heresies in the beginnings;

Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Allegorical interpretations make these foxes symbolize "false teachers" (compare Ezekiel 13:4).

Matthew Poole's Commentary

The foxes; the disturbers of the vineyard, or the church; seducers or false teachers, who are fitly compared to foxes here, and Ezekiel 13:4,

Some of the aforementioned commentaries, associate “foxes” with false teachers, false ministers, false prophets, etc., based on a reference associating “foolish prophets” to “foxes” in Ezekiel 13:3-4. Correct me if I’m wrong, this is an example of using the “Scripture interprets Scripture” hermeneutic tool.

Ezekiel 13:3-4 NASB 1995

3 Thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. 4 O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins.

13:3-4 The Westminster Leningrad Codex

3 כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֔ה ה֖וֹי עַל־הַנְּבִיאִ֣ים הַנְּבָלִ֑ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֹלְכִ֛ים אַחַ֥ר רוּחָ֖ם וּלְבִלְתִּ֥י רָאֽוּ׃

4 כְּשֻׁעָלִ֖ים בָּחֳרָב֑וֹת נְבִיאֶ֥יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל הָיֽוּ׃

However, it seems to be a little far-fetched to make the same association in Song of Solomon 2:15. The reason is that in the entire Song of Solomon 2 chapter, there is no mention of false prophets, false teachers, false ministers, etc.

Could someone please provide a more detailed & elaborate explanation as to why associating “false prophets” with “foxes” does or does not make sense? Are there any alternative interpretations? If yes, could someone please elaborate on it?

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  • Where do the words "her brothers" come from in the NKJV? I can't find it in the NKJV online, although it fits well with my interpretation. In other words her brothers catch the little foxes... meaning that they protect her chastity from what we would call "wolves." Nov 30, 2023 at 19:56
  • @DanFefferman Sorry, "Her Brothers" was a subtitle placed by the publishers of Biblegateway NKJV. Therefore, it's Not really part of original scripture. Here it is: biblegateway.com/passage/… Nov 30, 2023 at 20:27

3 Answers 3

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I wrote a book on Song of Solomon using the allegorical approach, and to me this interpetation makes sense (and I'm sorry I missed it at the time).

To me, the book is a dialogue between God's people Israel, as the speaking wife, and the husband she thinks she has lost (the setting being the Babylonian exile). We are told in ch1 v6 that she has neglected to look after her own vineyard, which I would interpret by reference to the vineyard parable of Isaiah ch5. Especially since we learn in the same verse that she was ultimately responsible for vineyards in general, making it even more shameful that she could not keep her own.

Seeing off the foxes, who would eat the growing fruit, is a natural part of the vneyard keeping metaphor.and identifying them with "those who lead the people astray" is in keeping with the basic allegory.

It isn't surprising that ch2 should have little on this theme, because ch2 is where the "Bride" is being nostalgic about the happy relationship of the past. The mood gets darker later, in ch5.

It is helpful to compare this metaphor with the "watchmen" who appear twice later in the book. I believe they echo the watchman of Ezekiel ch33 and should be understood as the Lord's prophets. She meets them twice and asks them where her husband is. The first time, ch3, she finds him easily, because this is still about the old happy relationship. I suggest they were silently pointing her in the right direction. But in ch5 she loses him and the watchmen mistreat her. My suggestion is that in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem the more critical prophets of the time were giving Israel a verbal beating-up, blaming her for breaking the covenant, and even denying her status as "wife" of the Lord (which is how I explain the removal of one of her garments).

However, the good news in the final verses of the book is that the vineyard appears to be prospering again. The message is that Israel will be restored.

So the support for the allegorical interpretation of the foxes is not found in ch2 so much, but more in the interpretation of the book as a whole.

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The Song of Solomon is a wonderful celebration of marital love.

Now, for those who wish to make the text of Song of Solomon into an allegory of something else, the problem becomes what to make it allegory of. Such an allegorical approach does two things:

  • makes the text try to say something it does not say
  • makes the interpretation a matter of the interpreter's imagination rather than an exegesis of the text itself

Therefore, such allegorists have arrived at a variety of understandings of the meaning of these "faxes, little foxes" in SS 2:15 which include (inter alia):

  • false prophets (eg, Gill, Keil and Delitzsch)
  • persecutors of Christians (eg, Mattew Poole)
  • heretics (See Ellicott)
  • false teachers (eg, Benson & Poole)
  • destructive church administrators on the basis of Eze 13:4

... and so forth. There are many more. Why not regard the "foxes" as the Roman authorities on the basis of Luke 13:32 ...?

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I would not argue that this interpretation does not make sense if one adopts an allegorical hermeneutical approach. The OP has provided ample evidence of support for this view among respected commentators. I do think a better way of looking at it is to accept it as the plain sense of the text suggests - a love poem that makes use of metaphor to describe two lovers and their bodies.

Looking at the song as a love poem, this section involves the maiden praising her lover as "like a gazelle," while verse 7 refers to "gazelles and does." She looks forward to being intimate with him among the "vines." If these vines are a literal vineyard, then the foxes may represent people with prying eyes would interrupt their lovemaking. But since the "vines" are threatened by wolfish predators, it is more likely that these vines and their "tender grapes" represent women's fertile bodies, as they do in Psalm 128:3:

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your home, Your children like young olive plants around your table.

The "foxes" would then be the equivalent of our term "wolves" - representing young men/boys who would deflower maidens before their true husband comes. This interpretation fits well with vs. 7:

I adjure you, Daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and the does of the field, Do not awaken, or stir up love until it is ready.

Conclusion: the meaning of the "little foxes" has to do with the disruption of a maiden's anticipated marital intimacy with her love. She is one of the "does" while he is a "gazelle." The foxes are either people who would interrupt them, or (more probably) wolfish tempters who would deflower the daughters of Israel before they find their true love. It is possible to interpret the whole song allegorically, but the sense of it as a love poem rich with sensual metaphor should not be ignored.

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  • +1. Good answer. Well done!
    – Dottard
    Nov 30, 2023 at 20:12

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